How the Park Police Horse Mounted Unit aims to keep crowds safe in DC

People from around the country come to D.C. to hold demonstrations on issues including systemic racism and abortion — including on the National Mall. Keeping everyone safe there is a job for the U.S. Park Police.

Park Police Acting Chief Gregory Monahan took part on Thursday in the groundbreaking for a new stable and education center for the agency’s Horse Mounted Unit.

“Each of our officers go through a rigorous training program to be part of the Horse Mounted Patrol unit,” Monahan said. “An integral part of that training is the crowd management piece.”

The officers ride horses chosen for their temperament and specially trained to maneuver in crowds of people and through heavily traveled roadways. They’re a combination of calm and strength.

At the groundbreaking, the mounted unit was referred to as “the ambassadors for the National Mall.”

“The kids love them, you know,” Monahan said. “But when they’re out patrolling, [the officers] have a higher vantage point, which works to their advantage.”

According to Monahan, the mounted units are useful in keeping order: “They’re able to move a crowd safely, to create a safe space for the demonstrations to continue.”

In rare cases, large protests on and around the Mall have led to violence and property destruction.

In July, Monahan testified on Capitol Hill before the House Natural Resources Committee on the forceful clearing of Lafayette Park on May 29 in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police.

On the task of maneuvering large number of people, with the goal of facilitating peaceful demonstrations: “I think we do that, and we kind of set the benchmark for that piece, as it relates to crowd management,” Monahan said.

The new stables and education center for the mounted unit is expected to be completed in a year, according to the Trust for the National Mall, the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, which raised the money for the project.

It will be open to the public.

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